Two years ago, a toddler was dropped off at a Lincolnshire day care center and turned up dead.
The parents of the daycare worker charged with the boy's murder are speaking out for the first time.
For two years, Paul Calusinski and his wife Cheryl have been living a parent's nightmare. Their 24-year-old-daughter Melissa has been behind bars, charged with an even greater nightmare -- the murder of a child.
“When this did happen, I knew my daughter was not the type of person they were saying that she is,” Paul said.
Melissa Calusinski was working at Minee Subee in the Park day care center, when she allegedly threw 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan to the floor, killing the toddler. Prosecutors say she confessed to the killing.
In January 2009, Lincolnshire Police Detective Adam Hyde said: “(Melissa) said she became frustrated with the baby boy, and while she was frustrated with him, she was holding him. She then, with a lot of force, threw him onto the ground.“
But in their first television interview since her arrest, Calusinski's parents claim her upcoming trial will tell a different story.
“When you hear what comes out at trial,” Paul said, “trust me when I say this. You'll be shaking your head.”
The Carpentersville couple would not offer specifics, other than saying that forensic evidence will prove their daughter did not cause the boy's death.
In pre-trial proceedings, defense attorneys have argued that Calusinski's videotaped confession was obtained through "psychological and mental coercion."
A portion of that taped confession has been played in court; it showed Calusinski originally denying she killed the boy, but later, admitting to the crime. Her parents were watching.
“It's heart wrenching,” her mother Cheryl said. “I mean you can't sit through that. As a parent, I don't know how anybody can sit through those, but this is like the second time I've seen them and I still can't sit through them. It's very hard, very hard. “
The parents believe their daughter's case resembles the Riley Fox case, in which the victim's father Kevin Fox confessed shortly after the crime -- a confession that was later proven false.
“For instance, they said, ‘We're not going home until this is finished.’ So they continued to keep working on her and working on her and working on her until finally she couldn't take no more and she wanted out of that room. So she confessed,” her father Paul said.
Lake County prosecutors say they can't discuss pending cases, and the victim's family also declined to comment. The prosecution's charging documents accuse Melissa Calusinski of "exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior" deserving of a life sentence.
Her parents remain convinced she will be exonerated.
“What we've been wanting to do and can't do, is tell our daughter, even without looking through the glass, that we love her, and Mom and Dad will always be there for her. And it's real hard. I just want her to come home. Because I know she didn't do it,” her dad said.
Defense lawyers are also challenging the manner in which Calusinski was arrested, saying her rights were violated. Her case is not likely to go to trial until much later this year.
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